Mind-Boggling Destruction in South Punjab

Friday, August 27, 2010 

Save the Children's Reporting Coordinator in Pakistan

After spending three weeks in the cold mountainous Swat
valley, I arrived in the hot and humid climate of Multan to work
alongside Save the Children teams working in the worst affected
districts of Muzaffargarh, Rajanpur and Dera Ghazi Khan. The floods
arrived here a week after the showers began in late July. There were
reports of nearly 300,000 people displaced overnight. There was also
news of entire villages living on the highways and in government
schools of Muzaffargarh and Multan. However, none of the reports came
close to the reality on ground.


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Displaced by flooding her village, Sakina camps at the side of the road with her 10 children and goat
Photo Courtesy Jason Tanner

Destruction in Muzaffargarh


The sight of makeshift shelters and tents begins at
xthe border of Muzaffargarh and Multan districts. Long lines of men,
women and children are found loitering on both sides of the busy
traffic. Besides those displaced from remote areas, people of nearby
villages are also found on the highway – their dilapidated homes
visible a few meters away.  It is mind-boggling to consider the
populations affected by the floods. In the district of Kot Addo the
lives of approximately 112,000 men, women and children have been
disrupted. These vast numbers of people do not have food, shelter,
clothing, access to health care and have completely lost their
livelihoods due to the floods. They will certainly require assistance
in the coming months, if not years, to not only resettle and establish
their lives but also to rejuvenate their income generating activities.


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Imtiaz, 25, with her 2-day-old unnamed baby
Photo Courtesy Jason Tanner

Relief to Brahimwala

Save the Children is the first NGO that has provided
food rations here. The packages include wheat, lentils, cooking oil,
micronutrient biscuits as well as tents, jerry cans, water buckets and
blankets to people who have lost their homes in district Muzaffargarh.
During one such distribution to the village of Brahimwala, I learned
how the villagers had departed from their homes in haste to reach safe
ground 25 kilometers away in the city of Muzaffargarh. There were no
registration points or information centers available for the displaced
to receive aid. They spent many days under the open sun before finding
temporary shelters on open grounds, roads and rampantly setup camps.
Food and drinking water distribution was irregular and chaos erupted
each time a truck arrived with provisions.

Unfortunately, the urban poor who live in shantytowns
of Muzaffargarh and Multan had joined the displaced to fight for
whatever donations they could lay their hands on. The needs are so
great.

As soon as the waters receded displaced people
returned to their homes. Although, most villages are still submerged
with the flood’s deluge of putrid water and mud, families have pitched
up tents alongside roads and canals. Water in Brahimwala has withdrawn,
demolishing each and every house in the village. The conditions are
appalling but with nowhere else to turn, people are living amidst mud,
flies and the remains of their houses squashed on the ground. The murky
flood waters and searing heat has worsened the dismal condition and
have increased the prevalence of diseases like diarrhea, malaria, skin
and respiratory infections.

Each and every member of Save the Children realizes
that an intense and continued support is essential to normalize the
lives of flood-affected people in Pakistan.



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Shamim,45, mourns the death of her four children and husband.

Photo Courtesy Jason Tanner